Douglas Shire Council welcomes new complaints assessor

DOUGLAS SHIRE COUNCIL

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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NO COMPLAINTS: Douglas Shire Mayor Julia Leu welcomes new council complaints assessor. Image: Victoria Stone-Meadows.
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Douglas Shire Council has welcomed the start of the new Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) which will receive, assess, investigate and prosecute complaints about councillor conduct in Queensland.

The OIA will be headed up by respected crime investigator and barrister Kathleen Florian as the inaugural Independent Assessor and will immediately be working on approximately 60 current complaints that are under investigation or are awaiting assessment.

“This is certainly a step in the right direction and is something Queensland councils have pushed for to improve consistency in assessing complaints,” said Douglas Shire mayor Julia Leu.

In responding to whether this position will seek more accountability, she said the new OIA will have the ability to independently review genuine complaints in a faster and fairer manner.

“We welcome this increased scrutiny as it will only reinforce Douglas Shire Council’s commitment to accountability, integrity and transparency.”

In agreeing that councils are already accountable, she said this is an opportunity to further strengthen trust in Local Government.

“Councils have been assured this new office will robustly assess frivolous and vexatious complaints quicker and more effectively,” said Leu.

Local Government Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said this is the start of a new era of accountability, integrity and transparency as we rebuild the community’s faith and trust in local government.

The new Code of Conduct has a strong focus on the three ‘R’s: that councillors carry out their responsibilities conscientiously; they treat people in a respectful way; and ensure their conduct does not reflect adversely on the reputation of the council.”

The Code is backed by a range of penalties including reprimands, orders for counselling and reimbursement of costs.

Ms Florian said the OIA’s job is to hold councillors, who would commit misconduct to account for the benefit of the community and the benefit of all councillors who are trying to do the right thing.

“It will be my priority to resolve the transition matters and ensure that the councillor conduct system is effective, timely and balanced,” said Florian.

The OIA will work with the new Councillor Complaints Tribunal and the Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs to provide councillors with advice, training and information.

The Code applies to all Councils, except Brisbane City Council which has a separate Code.  

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